Magazine article Nutrition Action Healthletter

Food Additive Loopholes

Magazine article Nutrition Action Healthletter

Food Additive Loopholes

Article excerpt

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

50 years ago, Congress passed a law that was intended to ensure that chemicals intentionally added to foods were safe.

The Food Additives Amendment of 1958 requires that proposed new food additives be tested by manufacturers and accepted by the Food and Drug Administration as posing a "reasonable certainty of no harm." And it bans any chemical that causes cancer in animals.

However, the law--and its enforcement--has proven to be weaker than its sponsors intended.

Among the loopholes:

* Is it truly GRAS?

Congress felt that some chemicals--like vinegar and starch--were so obviously safe that they weren't worth testing. So many food ingredients were declared GRAS, or "generally recognized as safe."

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

But companies can declare that their new chemicals are GRAS without having to notify the FDA. (Most do notify the agency, which gives a quick "no further questions" okay or requests more research.)

That's why stevia, a natural non-calorie sweetener, is now on the market even though it needs further testing (see p. 9). It's outrageous that companies can put stuff into our food without even letting the FDA know.

If GRAS substances were always safe, they wouldn't be a problem. But the FDA's GRAS list includes the two most harmful substances in our food supply--salt and partially hydrogenated oil--although each causes fatal heart attacks in tens of thousands of people a year. …

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